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Is a full takeover of RIPEL in the offing?


Chairman of the RIPEL – Cabinet Sub Committee and MP for Savo – Russell, Hon Dickson Mua

SOLOMON Islands Ports Authority (SIPA) is poised for a full takeover of the Russell Islands Plantation Estates Ltd (RIPEL) if a $50 million takeover proposal being put together by the Government is accepted.

The proposal is be the subject of a high level meeting expected to take place in Honiara today (Tuesday).

Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare and his Finance Minister, Snyder Rini and SIPA Chairman, Billy Titiulu and his new CEO, Eranda Kotelawala, are expected to discuss the matter in the meeting being held at the Office of the Prime Minister.

Prime Minister Sogavare was said to have requested the meeting.

It is not clear whether the $50 million being sought by government is a loan or a buy-out price which the Government wants in exchange for the sale of the entire Russell Islands Plantation Estates Ltd (RIPEL) on Russell Islands.

It is also not clear whether the buy-out includes other RIPEL plantations on Guadalcanal and Isabel. Most think it unlikely.

This is the first time the government has turned to a non-lending institution for support.

Indications from the SIPA Board are that the nation’s oldest State-Owned Enterprises (SOE) won’t buy into the proposal, given what it had just gone through in the last two years.

Those who have heard of the proposal say it is quite likely the government wants $50 million as a buy-out price in exchange for a complete takeover of RIPEL by the Solomon Islands Ports Authority (SIPA).

The MP for Savo/Russell, Hon Dickson Mua Pakinatasi who is Chairman of the Cabinet sub-committee on RIPEL said he heard the “rumours” only yesterday morning.

He said he and his Cabinet sub-committee are not aware of any buyout proposal from the government, adding it is quite possible the matter is with the bosses to sort out before it comes down to the committee level.

The $50 million price tag could also include the Hell’s Point land east of the capital, which the Government lost in a high court ruling in recent years.

At the time, the cost awarded against the government was said to be $80 million.

Since then Levers which owns the land has lowered the figure to $50 million as well as other sweeteners to get the government settle the matter as soon as possible.

There has been no movement either way.

Mr Pakinatasi said it was quite possible the $50 million being sought by the government was to settle the Hell’s Point land.

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